Bath Time for Grown-Ups
I am a bath aficionado. Not so much in the summer as in the colder months when I must get my body temperature back to normal after trudging through the tundra that is South Western Ontario (I know, you’re likely somewhere colder in Canadaland). It is also the ideal place to escape the ear-piercing cries of “Mommy, she’s not sharing!!” Grown-ups can benefit from bath time as much as the kiddos. And although the kids can still persecute me from the other side of the (locked!) door, I can just as easily put my ears under the water while still breathing. Baths are a luxury with no calories and no onerous price tag. They make your body feel invigorated without having to do squats or climb stairs — it’s instant gratification.
Bath Salts, Oils, and More!
There are so many ways to capture a spa-like experience in your home with a variety of scents and ingredients to choose from. Here is a master list of all the best bath salts and oils, bombs and bubbles, along with all the great benefits they offer!
Mineral salts are ideal for making your skin feel soft and purified. They are especially useful if you have hard water because they can offset the irritating effect it can have on the skin.
You know when your yoga instructor tells you to go home and take a bath with Epsom salts (and instead you fall asleep on the couch halfway through a glass of wine)? It turns out that there is a very good reason for this suggestion. Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) can absorb into your skin to reduce muscular inflammation. Add about a ½ cup to your bath after a few too many Adho Mukha Śvānāsanas or whatever your buzz is (Tough Mudder, ping pong, etc.).
The minerals extracted from seawater are composed of sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, chloride, and sulfate. They soften and hydrate the skin and make your body a tad more buoyant in the water. They are healing, purifying, and help to detox your pores.
Dead Sea Salt
Take it up a notch with Dead Sea salt. It contains the same minerals as sea salt but instead of being primarily sodium, it is a fairly even amount of magnesium, potassium, calcium, and sodium. People travel from all over the world to soak in the Dead Sea and take advantage of its healing powers — from relieving the pain of rheumatoid arthritis to curing psoriasis.
These are the concentrated aromatic extracts of plants – the very essence of the flowers, leaves, bark, fruit rinds, and roots, and are potent enough to perform therapeutically on many different levels. You can easily find them at your local health food store and I suggest trusting your nose in selecting the right ones for you. They can be added to your bath in 1-5 drops, depending on the oil, or you can mix them with other bath products like salts or bubbles. Too much of the wrong oil can make for an unpleasant, stingy experience, so keep it to a minimum. Among the many benefits of essential oils is that they can help to soothe sore muscles, nourish and heal skin, stimulate the lymphatic system, and relieve stress. Here is a quick guide to choosing the perfect essential oils for bathing.
Relaxing: lavender, jasmine, marjoram, basil, rose, neroli (from the bitter orange tree)
Stimulating: rosemary, lemongrass, peppermint, ginger, black pepper
Uplifting: grapefruit, ylang ylang, mandarin, bergamot, neroli
Pain relief: rosemary, peppermint, black pepper, thyme, eucalyptus
Colds and flu: eucalyptus, tea tree, pine, cypress, juniper
Skip the tedious process of applying body lotion by adding oil straight to your bath water. It will bind to your skin to soften and protect it. Most plant oils also offer the additional benefits of containing antioxidants and essential fatty acids to keep skin smooth, firm, and toned. Some great choices are sweet almond, grape seed, or olive oils.
Bath bombs come in all shapes and sizes but are commonly round balls that can be thrown directly into your water for a fun, fizzy experience. The base is a simple combination of baking soda, citric acid and cornstarch — ingredients that will purify and exfoliate your skin, leaving it soft and supple. Make them yourself with the recipe below!
Everyone loves bubbles, it’s not something we ever grow out of. I can’t think of a greater luxury than a sumptuous bubble bath and I wouldn’t dare fill the tub for my children without them — it just wouldn’t seem right. Unlike some other options, bubbles are a little more complicated. Unfortunately, suds do not come naturally — it takes some clever chemistry to achieve them and where there’s chemistry, there’s potential for toxins.
Bubbles are achieved by detergents, the most common being sodium lauryl sulfate and its evil twin, sodium laureth sulfate. Sulfates are irritating for some people, so glucosides are a gentler option (coco, decyl or lauryl); however, these may be derived from palm oil, which is not sustainable, so check with the company about the source. Also watch for preservatives. In commercial products, they can range from methylisothiazolinone (a suspected neurotoxin) to imidazolidinyl urea (formaldehyde releaser).
Stay clear of synthetic fragrances (listed as "fragrance" or "parfum") altogether. Manufacturers don’t have to list what these ingredients are composed of and it can be a nasty concoction of hormone-disrupting phthalates and/or carcinogenic musks. Never fear! You can find great non-toxic, natural bubbles at any health food store — just be a savvy shopper and read the labels first.
Baths are the perfect pampering experience and they multitask to relax and relieve stress, soothe sore muscles, warm body temperature, and maintain soft, supple skin. For kids, they turn a necessity into entertainment. For parents, they are the ultimate short-notice, well-deserved escape, so don't forget to lock the door, light some candles, play some soft music, and drift away. You'll feel like a million bucks afterwards, able to take on life's tasks with a fresh, new vigor — no need to visit the spa.
Indulgent Bath Recipes
Luxurious bath experiences don’t have to come with an extravagant price tag, because they can easily be created at home and can also make fantastic gifts for the holidays. We consulted bath product expert Jennifer Freitas, owner of Waterloo’s Truth Beauty Company for her favorite recipes.
Take a Break Bath Tea
- 1 cup powdered milk
- 1 cup rolled oats
- ½ cup dried flowers (calendula petals, rose petals, chamomile petals, & passionflower)
- 20–30 drops essential oil of palmarosa, bergamot, & mandarin
Mix all dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Once combined, slowly add a few drops of the essential oils, mixing every few drops or so to ensure that the fragrance becomes well-blended. Once you have a uniform mixture, package accordingly. Cute little mason jars make for great gift containers.
Peace, Love, Joy Bath Bombs
- ½ cup Epsom salts
- ½ cup citric acid
- ½ cup corn starch
- 1 cup baking soda
- 2½ tbsp sweet almond oil
- 1 tbsp water
- 2 tsp (total, not of each) patchouli (peace), ylang ylang (love) and jasmine (joy) essential oils
Carefully measure out the dry ingredients and mix together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, measure out the oil, water, and essential oils and stir. Now VERY slowly add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients. If you add the liquids too quickly, the mixture will start reacting. Once completely combined, pack into bath bomb molds or silicone ice cube trays, and let dry for at least 24 hours.
*Note: you may think that in no way is this super-dry mixture going to form into anything hard, but DO NOT add more liquids. The molds will firm up perfectly!
Muscle Relief Bath Soak
- 2 cups Epsom salts
- ¼ cup powdered mustard
- 4 drops of eucalyptus oil
- 4 drops of rosemary oil
- 4 drops of peppermint oil
Mix together the Epsom salts, mustard, and essential oils in a large mixing bowl; store in glass or package as gifts in little mason jars. When using (use about ½ cup per bath), allow yourself to soak for at least 15 to 20 minutes.
*Originally published January 6, 2016